Sunday, May 20, 2012

Odds & Ends: Yankees, Swimming, Vegetable Oil, Romney, E-Mail

After another disheartening loss by the NY Yankees, this time to the Cincinnati Reds, I thought I’d ask one of my friends, a long-suffering NY Mets fan, how I could cope with a season of unfulfilled expectations. 

“Realistic expectations,” was Ken’s response, a philosophy he has perfected over many years but which he readily admitted was foreign to Yankees fans who have grown accustomed to regular season success, at the very least. 

Based on their play and their injury-laden roster, the Yankees and their fans are in for a very loooong season. Will it be a success if we manage to finish ahead of Boston?

Ken is my swimming instructor. He’s opened his pool, but it’s weeks too early to even consider dipping a dainty toe into the water, even if he heats it up. We agree I have the fundamentals down, that my failure to stay afloat is mostly, if not all, mental. Ken suggested adding a psychologist to the instructional team. My sister suggested a hypnotist. 

It’s still open to debate who will learn to swim first—two and a half year old Finley or his 63 year old grandfather.

The other day while driving home I was stopped behind a Mercedes with a decal across the back window proclaiming, “Powered by vegetable oil.”

Cool. Except the car really smelled like cooked French fries. 

The Sunday NY Times ran a profile of Mitt Romney and how the Mormon religion has shaped his life (“Romney’s Faith, Silent but Deep,” 

He is, no doubt, a religious man. Nothing wrong there. But I was troubled especially by the last paragraph of the story, the one where Ann Romney was quoted about his decision to run for president. According to Gloria White-Hammond, a friend and pastor of a Boston-area African Methodist Episcopal church, Mrs. Romney said she and her husband “felt it was what God wanted them to do.” 

I’m troubled whenever anyone, other than maybe a clergyman, ascribes actions to what God wanted them to do. Is that how our government will be managed, by what is perceived to be messages from God? Romney, it turns out, as a practicing Mormon, is said to believe God has chosen the United States to be a special nation, that its Constitution is divinely inspired. 

“God is on our side” often is a rallying cry of countries that go to war. Heaven need truly help us if we devolve into a 21st century nation that believes our actions are always godly and beyond reproach. 

A friend sent me one of those right wing emails that deplore what is wrong with America and what we need to do to fix it. The thrust of this missive was too many people are taking money from the government without contributing anything in return. In other words, the have-nots are bleeding the haves dry. “We have let the free stuff giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting free stuff than paying for the free stuff.” 

Here’s the final credo:

Borders: Closed!
Language: English only
Culture: Constitution, and the Bill of Rights!
Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before Welfare!
NO freebies to: Non-Citizens!

I can’t let these screeds go unanswered, so here’s a little of what I wrote back:

Here's a link to a USA Today article . In essence it says: 
50 million are on Medicaid
40 million get food stamps
10 million are on unemployment
4.4 million are on welfare.

Assuming no one is double dipping, that means 104.4 million receive some form of government assistance. That's roughly one-third of the U.S. population, not a majority. Enrollments in these programs have gone up because of the recession George W. Bush left as his legacy. 

Would you really like to live in a country that does not care for its elderly, for its infirm, for those who are not provided a proper education so they can climb out of poverty? Would you really like to live in a country that has no compassion for the less fortunate? Are you comfortable living in the richest country in the world while millions of children go to bed hungry each night? 

For sure there is waste, lots of waste, in these programs. But just as we don't tar the full military for the wrongdoings of a few idiots, we shouldn't dismiss the benefits these programs provide to the needy, of all ages, sexes, creeds, religions, background, and country of origin. 

Many in our country donate to worthwhile charities and other helpful programs. Yet poverty persists. Hunger remains. Education budgets are cut at a time when we need better trained employees. Private solutions are not sufficient to solve our problems. An economy without controls will lead to more abuses a la Enron, Tyco, JP Morgan Chase, and the derivative crisis that is the derivation of much of the financial problems of today. Surely you can't believe that we live in a Pollyanna world where everything will turn out just right if we pray hard for it and wish for it because in their hearts all men and women are good and would not take advantage of their neighbors and countrymen? There's a reason the first thing new settlers build is not a church but rather a jail.